Despite heavy rain and snow, California braces for another dry year
An onslaught of rain and snow has pulled most of California out of exceptional drought, but experts warn that the state’s dry spell is far from over. Officials issued emergency water regulations this week — including a controversial exemption for agriculture — even as the northern part of the state braced for possible flooding from winter storms.(No paywall)
A court decision may help endangered orcas, but Alaskan fishermen are wary
The U.S. District Court in Seattle seemed to offer endangered orca whales a lifeline in September when it issued a preliminary decision that might make more wild king salmon available to the marine mammals. But while the court decision is expected to help orcas, it may be bad news for fishermen.(No paywall)
When the West Coast wildfires are out, can mushrooms help with the cleanup?
When the worst wildfire season on record in the West finally subsides, it will give way to another potentially devastating environmental crisis: toxins from charred and melted plastics, electronics, and other household materials leaching into watersheds, endangering residents, agriculture, and ecosystems.(No paywall)
U.S. Army Corps key to Trump’s move on Pebble Mine
This week, the Trump administration placed a major hurdle in front of the company seeking to develop the largest gold and copper mine in North America. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on Monday stated that the proposed Pebble Mine project, as currently designed, would not receive the necessary federal permits. The mine was slated for southwest Alaska’s Bristol Bay region, home to the largest sockeye salmon fishery in the world. (No paywall)
As Covid-19 rises, Alaskans crowd rivers for wild salmon
“As salmon make their epic voyages from the sea to upriver spawning grounds, Alaskans crowd shorelines to catch enough fish to put up for the winter,” Miranda Weiss writes in FERN’s latest story. But the activity has taken on a new urgency this year because of the Covid-19 pandemic and fears of …
Covid-19 might close the largest salmon fishery on Earth
Leaders in southwest Alaska’s Bristol Bay — source of nearly half the world’s sockeye salmon and a $1.5 billion industry — this week asked Alaska Gov. Michael Dunleavy to shut down the fishery to protect public health. (No paywall)
Alaska’s biggest wild salmon run at risk
Bristol Bay is a rare, pristine fishery, the largest source of wild salmon in the world, but a new story published by FERN in collaboration with The Nation says it faces a dual threat – from a rapidly changing climate and a massive, Trump-backed mine. The story, by Alaskan journalist Julia …
GE salmon cleared for U.S. dinner plates
More than three years after the FDA approved, for the first time, a genetically engineered animal as safe to eat, the government opened the door for AquaBounty Technologies to grow and sell its GE salmon in the United States. A biotech trade group said the fish, which developers say grows twice as fast as as conventional Atlantic salmon on 25-percent less feed, will "contribute to a more sustainable food supply."
Tentative hope for a native New York salmon run
An effort is underway in upstate New York to bring back a native run of landlocked salmon, according to FERN’s latest story, with Adirondack Life magazine. The story, by Paul Greenberg, focuses on the work of a U.S. Fish and Wildlife specialist to stock the Boquet River in New York with salmon that will then spawn and migrate into Lake Champlain, which straddles the border of New York and Vermont.
Pebble Mine and Alaskan salmon face day of reckoning
The on-again, off-again Pebble Mine venture in Alaska is facing a day of reckoning, with the future of the nation’s largest salmon run, which can exceed 40 million fish, hanging in the balance, according to FERN’s latest story by Paul Greenberg, in collaboration with Mother Jones. Both sport and commercial fishermen depend on the Bristol Bay fishery, valued at more than half a billion dollars, and for years they have been fighting a proposed mining venture that would develop a deposit containing billions of tons of copper, gold, and molybdenum in the same headwaters where all those salmon get their start.
In California, rice farms become a home for wildlife
In California's Sacramento Valley, farmers and conservationists are working together to create habitat for wildlife, trying to mimic wetlands that were once plentiful in the state but have shrunk to one-tenth of their historic size. The focus of their work is the rice industry, which ranks second in production after the Mississippi Delta. The effort is paying off. One farmer pointed out "egrets and herons, Sandhill Cranes, curlews, ibis, and countless ducks and geese filling whole sections of rice fields," reports Lisa Morehouse in her latest story for FERN, in collaboration with KQED's California Report. No paywall
EPA ‘ready’ to work with Alaska gold mine but retains Obama-era doubts
After more than 1 million public comments, the EPA said it will not dismiss an Obama-era conclusion that the proposed Pebble gold mine in southwestern Alaska could cause "significant and irreversible harm" to the Bristol Bay watershed, reported the Washington Post. Instead, the EPA said it will seek additional comments and that its decision "neither deters nor derails the application process" for the mine. Opponents worry the mine could ruin the Bristol Bay fishery, the largest sockeye salmon fishery in the world.
Escaped salmon found 40 miles upstream from Puget Sound
In August, 305,000 farm-raised Atlantic salmon weighing 8 to 10 pounds apiece escaped into Puget Sound when a net collapsed at a floating fish farm near Cyprus Island.
New bills seek to undermine Endangered Species Act
Six Republican bills could change the face of the Endangered Species Act, says High Country News. For example, the Federally Integrated Species Health Act, introduced by California Republican Rep. Ken Calvert, would turn management of endangered salmon species entirely over to the Fish & Wildlife Service. As of now, the National Marine Fisheries Service co-manages endangered salmon with FWS.
Coho salmon die in ‘witch’s brew’ of stormwater runoff
Coho salmon face fatal levels of pollution in 40 percent of their range in the Puget Sound Basin, chiefly because of stormwater runoff, says a study published in the journal Ecological Applications.
What happens to a fishing culture when there are too few fish?
For generations, members of the Yurok tribe have fished for salmon in the Klamath River in the northwestern corner of California. "Salmon is essential to Yurok ceremonies, for food and for income," says Lisa Morehouse in a story for The California Report that was produced in partnership with FERN. "But this fall, the number of chinook salmon swimming up the Klamath was the lowest on record, threatening the tribe's entire culture and way of life."
Claim: Aquaculture company offered to pay tribe to stop complaining about net pens
Cooke Aquaculture — the company responsible for the estimated 105,000 farmed salmon that spilled out of a ripped net and into Puget Sound this summer — offered to pay the Lummi Nation an extra $12 per fish if the tribe would not push for the prohibition of net-pen aquaculture.
California and Oregon urge feds to send relief to salmon fisheries
Officials in California and Oregon are calling on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s fisheries division to release emergency funding after salmon fisheries were closed in both states.